Pirates general manager sees positives signs out of Power
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It wasn't the best way for Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington to end his weekend of watching the West Virginia Power, as the Pirates' low Class A affiliate dropped a 12-5 decision Sunday to the Lexington Legends to fall back below .500 for the season.
Yet through the four games he watched the Power (21-22) play the Legends, he saw positive signs among the growing pains with players that could shape future rosters in Pittsburgh.
"You see the tools that our scouting department drafted and signed, and you see how hard (Power Manager) Mike Ryan and (hitting coach Orlando Merced) and (pitching coach Jeff Johnson) and the rest of the staff work to help these guys grow and develop," Huntington said. "It's fun, especially at this level and the levels below this. Sometimes the athleticism outweighs the instincts for the game and the body says they can do things the mind hasn't quite caught up to say we shouldn't yet."
The Power's series finale showed how the road won't always be smooth.
The Legends (23-21) tagged West Virginia starter Jake Burnette for six earned runs. Burnette, making his first home start for the Power, couldn't get out of the first inning.
He gave up RBI to Ethan Chapman, Fred Ford and Jin-Ho Shin then loaded the bases for reliever Thomas Harlan, who entered with two outs. Nick Cuckovich doubled off Harlan to score three. Lexington had another big inning in the sixth, scoring four runs.
Yet Ryan said the way the Power played hard throughout instead of folding before the game was over gave him one of his proudest moments of the season.
"You take the scoreboard out of the equation, the way they played hard for nine innings, the way they did things the right way, they didn't fold," Ryan said. "I'm proud to be the manager of this team. Take two innings out, and I think it's a great, well-played game.
"We had base runners in the ninth when other teams in this league would have folded and tried to get out of here because they could enjoy their Sunday evening the quicker they get out," he added.
West Virginia scored three in the second, then got its 10th home run of the season from Stetson Allie, who blasted a Brian Brickhouse pitch over the center field fence in the fifth.
Huntington said Allie, who's playing his first full season in the field after starting his pro career as a pitcher, is showing signs of improvement.
"Stetson shows a very short, very strong swing for a big man," he said. "He uses the middle of the field with authority, which is a great sign for any young hitter. And he consciously does it, which is a good thing."
Allie is part of a Power roster sporting several of the Pirates' top prospects, and Huntington got a close look at many of them over the four-game series. Outfielder Josh Bell, who entered Sunday as the South Atlantic League's top RBI producer (35), went 1-for-4 with a walk Sunday, but Huntington said Bell's athleticism was impossible to miss.
"Right now, you see the raw power in BP," he said. "You see the hitability in BP. You see him move in the outfield fine and throw the ball fine, but you see a guy who's still trying to get his timing back, still trying to knock the rust off from a year out. But you see the upside for sure."
Huntington also walked away impressed with Ryan, who is in his first season managing the Power.
"Mike's positive energy, knowledge, work ethic and passion, love of kids, love of teaching ... there are some great signs with him," he said. "He hasn't let the game speed up on him too much as a first-year manager, which does happen to most. I think he's been able to control that and contain that. He's made a good first impression as a manager."
The Power begins a three-game road series today at Kannapolis before returning home for a four-game series versus Lakewood starting Thursday.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.